Frequently Asked Questions about Step Plus

Eligibility

(1)   Why does the Step Plus System refer to reviews at 2, 3 and 4-year intervals?

Within most title series, the normative review cycle is 2 years for the assistant and associate levels. After associate step 4, the review cycle occurs every 3 years. At the full rank, the normative review cycle is 3 years up to step 9 and then the review cycle occurs every 4 years. At every review the individual may be considered for more than 1 step (1.5 or 2 steps).

(2)   Is a merit increase of 0.5 part of the Step Plus system?

The 0.5 step option is not part of the Step Plus System.

(3)   With respect to the fixed/normative review period, will the law school’s “Acting Professor” designation be treated the same as “Assistant/Associate Professor” designation, and thus provided a normative review period of two years? 

Yes, this is correct.

(4)   Does the new, normative period of three years begin from a candidate’s last advancement?

Yes, this is correct if the last advancement was positive. The candidate will remain eligible every year following a denied action or a deferral until they positively advance or until a promotion or five (5) year review is required.

Please note that normative time at step is different at the various ranks and steps. Please see APM 220-18 or applicable title series policy. The normative time at each step can also be found on the Step Plus System Salary Tables

(5)   Does Step Plus change the process for Career Equity Review (CER)?

The Step Plus System does not change the process for Career Equity Review.

(6) Are promotions allowed to accelerate in time and accelerate in step?

No. For example, promotions to Associate and Full Professor can be accelerated in time or can be evaluated according to Step Plus guidelines, but not both. A promotion action that is “accelerated in time” is one for which the candidate is seeking advancement early, without waiting normative time at the current step. “Accelerations in time” should not be confused with on-time Step Plus advancements of more than one step. For example, a 2.0 Step Plus advancement at normative time is not considered an “acceleration in time”, even though a full step has been skipped.

(7)   What is the review period for the first merit after a lateral promotion? 

The review period begins with merit advancement to the overlapping step in the previous rank.

For example:

  • A professor advances to Assistant Professor, Step 5 effective 7/1/2020. The review period for this action was most likely 7/1/17-6/30/19.
  • Then, in 2020-2021, this Assistant Professor successfully pursues a lateral promotion to Associate Professor, Step 1 effective 7/1/2021. The review period for this action is since terminal degree.
  • According to APM 220-18-b, time spent at these overlapping steps is “combined”. Since normative time at these steps is 2 years, this Associate Professor is eligible for Step Plus merit advancement effective 7/1/2022. In this scenario, the review period for the merit from Associate Professor, Step 1 is 7/1/2019-6/30/2021.

Note: Policy does allow an alternative review period method with an end date of 9/30. The review period may be 10/1/2019-9/30/2021 if the period of 7/1/2019-9/30/2019 was counted for the merit to Assistant Professor, Step 5.

(8) How do you apply Step Plus criteria in the context of the review period for promotions and merit advancement to Step 6 or Above Scale?

Please see the Guide to Step Plus Promotions and Barrier Reviews and the applicable policies in the APM for information on both promotions and barrier step merit reviews.

(9) Since "accelerations in time" are allowed for promotions, can a faculty member pursue a skip-a-step promotion?

No. A dossier that is being evaluated for a promotion that is accelerated in time (i.e., an “early” promotion that occurs before normative time has elapsed for the next eligible action) will not be considered or approved for advancement of more than one step.

 

General

(10)  If a candidate went up for a 1.5 step merit and only received 1, would the candidate be able to appeal?

Yes, Step Plus does not change the right to appeal. See APM UCD 220 IV. J, APM UCD 220 Procedure 5, and the Academic Senate Appeal Process. Academic Federation members, see APM UCD 220AF IV. H.

(11)  Why is Step 1.5 at the Assistant ranks not an available step?
Step 1.5 at the assistant rank is not available because half-step merits are not an option. Example: if someone is hired at Step 1.0, their only option is to merit to Step 2, 2.5, etc. There was no business reason to include step 1.5 because it would cause confusion since it is not a merit option and appointments can only be made to a whole step.

(12) Do the responsibilities of the Faculty Personnel Committees (FPC) change under the Step Plus System?
The role of the college and school FPCs does not change.

(13) What happens if the department recommends a 1.5 step increase, but the FPC does not support the 1.5 increase?
The Faculty Personnel Committee (FPC) recommendation is advisory to the dean. The dean may still approve a 1.5 step increase if the dean determines the record merits a 1.5 step increase. The dean also has the option to approve a 1.0 step increase. However, if the FPC or the dean recommend a 2.0 step increase, the action becomes non-redelegated.

(14) What happens if a faculty member is eligible for a merit and chooses to defer?
The faculty member continues to be eligible for a merit every year thereafter until they positively advance to the next step. Upon advancement, the normative time clock starts over.

(15) If a faculty member is pursuing an action in normative time, can they opt out of Step Plus?
No. Every action that is reviewed in normative time, or following a deferral or five-year review, is to be evaluated using the Step Plus system.

 

Voting/Action Selection

(16) Can the candidate still pursue advancement even if the department majority votes against advancement? What is entered as the proposed step on the Action Form? In addition, what kind of language should Department Chairs use when writing a department letter under such circumstances?
After the results of the department vote are shared with the candidate, the candidate retains the option to pursue the action even if advancement is not supported by the majority of department voters. In this case, the Action Form should be presented as a 1.0-step advancement. Alternatively, the candidate may defer consideration for advancement by requesting a deferral, unless policy requires promotion or five-year review.

The department letter should only reflect the department’s response to the candidate’s dossier. The following language is offered as an example of how to capture the department recommendation in the department letter:

“The department of ABC does not recommend that Professor XYZ receive a merit increase/promotion effective July 1, 20xx. The details of the department vote are summarized below.”

The candidate may make a case for their desired step when they prepare their candidate’s statement. In these cases, the action form should reflect a proposed merit increase of 1.0-step.

(17) Do department voting procedures need to change under the Step Plus System?
Departments select their own voting procedures and processes. The appropriate Academic Senate and Federation committees review proposed changes in procedures, but those changes most often address the issue of which department members are eligible to vote on which academic personnel actions. Under the Step Plus System, all merits will be reviewed at the normative interval, and so departments will need to consider how they wish to express support (or the lack thereof) for a merit of greater than one step (i.e., an acceleration in performance/step, rather than an acceleration in time).

(18) Who decides how many steps the candidate will advance?
All actions will be considered for greater than 1.0-step at each review by the Department(s), unless the action is a promotion that is accelerated in time. Following review, the Department(s) will vote on whether a 1.0, 1.5 or 2.0 step advancement will be recommended. If the candidate is reviewed by multiple departments, the action form should reflect the highest department recommendation, which may result in a change of delegation for the action.

(19) Who decides who goes up for promotion? If a candidate is at a step that is eligible for promotion (not a seventh year case), can the candidate choose not to be considered for promotion and limit the department vote to only step plus options for merit?
An academic appointee can come up for promotion when they are ready or when the department finds the record supports the action. Assistant professors must promote no later than their seventh year, per APM 133 and APM 220, unless they previously received approval for an extension on the clock. If the candidate is four years or less at rank or clearly does not meet the criteria for promotion (e.g., absence of an in-press or published book in the book disciplines), the candidate has the option to have promotion removed from the Step Plus ballot. In all other circumstances, the promotion options under Step Plus must be included on the ballot.

(20) I heard that you only have one opportunity to pursue a promotion. Is this true?
The only scenario in which a candidate has only one opportunity to pursue a promotion is when the candidate holds a title that has a service limit (e.g., assistant professor) and the promotion review takes place during the seventh year at the Assistant rank.

(21) How should the department handle support for a barrier step under Step Plus?
Example 1: A professor is eligible for a merit from Step 8.
Prior to the department vote, the dossier should be prepared for the potential entire review period required of the barrier step, excluding extramural letters. If the result of the department vote is supportive of the Above Scale action, extramural letters will need to be obtained and the department will need to revote on the new dossier. The department letter shall address the standards described in APM for advancement to above scale.

Example 2: A professor is eligible for a merit from full rank, Step 4. Prior to the department vote, the dossier should be prepared for the potential entire review period required of the barrier step. If the result of the department vote is supportive of the Step 6 action, the department letter should be very clear in specifically addressing the Step 6 criteria, and should provide the sorts of information that were previously gathered from the outside letters, while making specific reference to the standards applying to teaching, service and research as described in the APM.

(22) What happens if the department sends to the dean(s) a recommendation that is a redelegated action and a committee or dean makes a recommendation that crosses a barrier step? For example: A merit action was sent to the dean’s office as a 1.0-step merit from 8.5 to 9.5. The FPC recommended a 1.5 step increase to Above Scale, making the action non-redelegated. The action was returned to the department to prepare the dossier for Above Scale, obtain extramural letters, and re-vote.
In these cases, the redelegated committee review plays a very important role in changing the course of the action from redelegated to non-redelegated across a barrier step.

When the action is returned to the department, the FPC recommendation should be shared with the candidate to explain why the action is being returned to the department and to inform the candidate that it is up to them if they would like to share the FPC recommendation with department colleagues. Since department colleagues do not normally have access to committee recommendations in the personnel files of their colleagues and the chair normally only sees the committee recommendation(s) after the final decision is made, it is the responsibility of the candidate to share that recommendation with their colleagues, if the candidate wishes to do so.

If the candidate does share the FPC recommendation with the department, it should be appended to the department letter. If the candidate chooses not to share the FPC recommendation with department colleagues, the original FPC recommendation should be appended to the Dean’s recommendation on the non-redelegated action. Regardless of whether or not the candidate shares the FPC recommendation with the department, the action needs to be resubmitted as a non-redelegated action.

(23) An Associate Professor, Step 3 is eligible for promotion to the full rank. The choices are 1.0 step, 1.5 steps, 2 steps, no, and abstain. What does 1.0-step mean – Associate Professor, Step 4 or full Professor, Step 1?
In this situation, it will be critical for the department chair to consult with the candidate to discuss advancement options and the merits of the case. If both the promotion and merit options are to be considered, the faculty must be informed explicitly whether they are voting on promotion or on a merit. If the faculty are voting on a promotion from Associate Professor, Step 3, an increase of 1.0 step would result in a proposed promotion to Professor, Step 1. If the faculty do not support a promotion, then a separate vote would need to be recorded on a merit increase. Departments may consider designing a special ballot with more options for this situation, so long as its format is consistent with the more typical department ballot.

(24) An Assistant Professor, Step 5 is up for promotion at year 7. One of the options may be lateral promotion to Associate Professor, Step 1. How is this indicated on a ballot?
It is a good idea to add a lateral promotion as an option when a faculty member previously merited to an overlapping step. The ballot may look like the following:

  • 2.0 step promotion (Associate Prof, Step 3)
  • 1.5 step promotion (Associate Prof, Step 2.5)
  • 1.0 step promotion (Associate Prof, Step 2)
  • Lateral Promotion (Associate Prof, Step 1)
  • No support
  • Abstain

Note: Associate Professor, Step 1.5 is not a promotion option as an increase of 0.5 steps is not an option under Step Plus. There is a guide to promotions and the role of overlapping steps available here.

(25) We have a faculty member at Assistant Professor, Step 3 (or Associate Professor Step 2.0) who wants to pursue a promotion action.

(a) Is this allowed?

Occasionally, there may be a case where an Assistant Professor, Step 3 or an Associate Professor, Step 2 may seek advancement after spending normative time (2 years) at their current step. Candidates at Assistant rank, Steps 1.0-3.5 and Associate rank, Steps 1.0-2.5 are not eligible for promotions that are accelerated in time.

Promotion eligibility when a candidate HAS spent normative time at their current step:

Chart displaying promotion eligibility from Assistant to Associate rank when the candidate has spent normative time at step

Chart displaying promotion eligibility from Associate to Full rank when the candidate has spent normative time at step

(b) We have determined our Assistant Professor, Step 3 has spent normative time at their current step. How should the department vote?
If the candidate has spent normative time at Assistant Professor, Step 3 (or Associate Professor, Step 2) the action is NOT considered an acceleration in time, and should be reviewed following Step Plus guidelines. The department should vote on all possible outcomes:

  • 2.0-step promotion to Associate Professor, Step 1
  • 2.0-step merit to Assistant Professor, Step 5
  • 1.5-step merit to Assistant Professor, Step 4.5
  • 1.0-step merit to Assistant Professor, Step 4
  • No advancement
  • Abstain

(c) What if the Assistant Professor, Step 3 in question has not spent normative at their current step?
The Assistant Professor, Step 3 is not eligible for promotion in this scenario.

Promotion eligibility when a candidate HAS NOT spent normative time at their current step:
Chart displaying promotion eligibility from Assistant to Associate rank when the candidate has not spent normative time at step

Chart displaying promotion eligibility from Associate to Full rank when the candidate has not spent normative time at step

Exception: Candidates who have been at the Assistant rank for 7 years and must be considered for promotion before normative time has elapsed at the current step (a “technical acceleration”) may still be considered for Step Plus, and the department should vote on all possible outcomes.

(26) Should we require an explanation for a “no” vote on 1.5 steps and 2.0 steps, or just in the case where the 1.0-step merit is not supported?
Only when casting a “no” vote is an explanation required. However, faculty members should be able to add comments whenever they support or do not support any type of action.

(27) When does the chair consult with the candidate?
In some circumstances (e.g. Question #??, above), it will be important for the Chair to discuss voting options with the candidate before the department vote. However, we generally recommend that voting faculty should be given the opportunity to vote on all common merit and/or promotion options under Step Plus (0, 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 steps). Prior to the faculty vote, the candidate prepares the Candidate’s Statement to make their best case for the action they think they deserve. The department letter should make a recommendation based on the vote and post-vote consultation between the Chair and the candidate.

(28) What if only half the voting faculty support a 2.0 step merit increase? As chair, what advice do I give to the candidate?
In scenarios like this, the 2.0 step merit increase should be submitted. The chair can remind the candidate that all approved merit increases are an excellent outcome!

(29) What is the role of the faculty member in terms of their willingness to self-promote or their tolerance for risk?
The department voters will have access to the record, including the candidate’s statement, in which the candidate should make his or her case for an action felt to be deserved. The department letter must recommend an action based on the vote. If the vote is divided and does not clearly imply a single recommendation, the candidate’s preference and discussion with the chair can play a significant role in the recommendation.

(30) Does the candidate choose in advance what the faculty will vote on in the department?
This is determined by department practice. However, to be consistent with the aims of the Senate’s Step Plus resolution, we recommend that each department adopt a ballot that captures most options under Step Plus (2.0-step advancement, 1.5-step advancement, 1.0-step advancement, no advancement, or abstention). Ballots that list all options and ask each voter to select the advancement option that is most appropriate allow the department faculty to vote only once and also ensures that acceleration in step is considered for every dossier.

(31) Can the department recommend retroactive under Step Plus?
No. All reviewers and decision-makers shall evaluate the case using the Step Plus system and consider the candidate for a merit of greater than one step rather than recommending retroactive advancement.

(32) How do joint department recommendations work?
Just as in the previous system, the joint department may make a recommendation that differs from that of the home department. However, the primary department should update the proposed status on the Action Form to reflect the highest advancement recommendation from any of the candidate’s departments (home department, secondary department, etc.). The proposed action then determines the delegation of authority.

(33) As a member of a review committee (such as an FPC or CAP), what do I do with regards to department-level voting on actions that may or may not come to my committee for review?
The FPC or CAP member shall vote only once, and that member shall decide if that will be at the department level or the FPC/CAP level, on a case-by-case basis. If the FPC or CAP member votes at the department level on a particular action, then the member cannot vote at the FPC or CAP level on that action, but can still participate in the committee discussion. If the FPC or CAP member chooses to recuse themselves from voting at the department level, it is possible that this member will not have the opportunity to vote on the action, depending on the outcome of the home and joint department recommendations.

Departments may choose to allow CAP members to vote on the 1.0- and 1.5-step advancement options, with the expectation that they will recuse themselves from voting on a 2.0-step advancement. FPC members could be allowed to vote on the 2.0-step advancement with the expectation that they recuse themselves from the 1.0- and 1.5-step advancement options. When this occurs, the department letter should clearly identify abstentions that apply to a specific advancement option.

(34) How does the candidate’s advancement selection on the “Notification of advancement eligibility for Academic Federation” impact (a) the recommendation on the Action Form, and (b) the department vote?
This form shall not be provided to the department reviewers prior to the department vote. Once the candidate has made a selection, the department must vote on all Step Plus advancement options, and the voting results are included in the department letter. However, if the candidate elected to pursue only 1.0 step on the notification of eligibility, the department letter recommendation must be for 1.0 step only. The department letter should also explain that the 1.0 step recommendation is driven by the candidate’s selection, due to funding availability. The action form “proposed status” section should also reflect a 1.0 if this is what the candidate has selected.